Friday, July 1st, 2022

Tion Wayne ft. La Roux – IFTK

Elly Jackson revisits views on rap: “it’s fine thanks, kerching!”


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Oliver Maier: Every time I put on “IFTK” I’m struck by how vibrant Tion Wayne’s flow is; relaxed but still taunting, smug but still hungry. In three minutes he puts every montone UK rap star stringing together contrived punchlines to shame. Most impressive is that the La Roux sample, great though it is, doesn’t feel like a gimmick. A great fucking thing, this.
[8]

Scott Mildenhall: The Skream mix of “In for the Kill” has called out for this for years. Alone, it remains as powerful as ever, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that all Tion Wayne can do is dilute it. While he’s taken it in a ripe direction with a good amount of gusto, the tension feels more forced. If the source was Gianfranco Zola, this is Fabio Borini.
[7]

Aaron Bergstrom: As someone who (a) loves random athlete mentions in rap songs and (b) just finished watching both seasons of Girls5Eva, I might be the perfect audience for “IFTK”: up-and-coming young rapper reaches for a hit of nostalgia for the recent past by sampling a song that feels like it came out both yesterday and five thousand years ago, shouts out maybe the third-best goalkeeper in the Premier League. It works.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: This is really all about hearing Elly Jackson singing the La Roux classic “In for the Kill” over a stripped-down UK drill beat — and then, and then, with about 30 seconds left, that beat turns into drum and bass, and yes fucking please. If I have to listen to Tion Wayne rap about gunplay for this, I can deal.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: “In for the Kill” is a song I don’t like in any form, but one thing it did have going for it is that if you didn’t like Elly Jackson’s voice, there was at least a bit of room to move around it, if you wanted to take in the spacious synth pop of the original. In sampling it, Tion Wayne cuts up and repeats it so much you actually get Even More La Roux Than La Roux, and I can’t love that. But I like what he brings to the rest of the song, while wishing he had the confidence to carry it with his own hooks.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Tion is a bland, uncomplying vocalist with bland lyrics. La Roux literally carry the song with four lines from a song that is 13 years old. The bassline is pretty flat, lurching underneath the chopped vocal sample; a brief two-note rise on the third bar and one note on the fourth forming the only semblance of movement. That’s carried by the shuffling percussion, lowered beneath the kick and snare whenever Tion needs to make a point and raised whenever he wants to appear skillful. The piano is sprinkled in at those times while being hidden from view by the primacy of the bassline, so much that it barely matters, since Elly Jackson isn’t harmonizing with it and Tion doesn’t need it. By the time the song switches the kick/snare programming to a more garage tempo it’s too late. The plane has flown the coop.
[5]

Friday, July 1st, 2022

Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Young Thug – Potion

But what if the potion were Nyquil?


[Video]
[5.33]

Katie Gill: Nobody involved in this song was ever in the same room when they were recording, huh. It’s perfectly serviceable background music, the sort of low-key song that you can’t really dance to, you can’t really roll down your windows and sing along to, you can’t really cry to, you DEFINITELY can’t fuck to, you can’t really be angry to, but you’re not going to turn it off when it pops up in your Spotify new releases playlist that you listen to when you’re cooking.
[5]

Al Varela: “Potion” is a good song, and pretty much what I expected from the follow-up to “Funk Wav. Bounces Vol. 2”, but it still feels a little underwhelming to me. I think the reason why that is has to do with the surprise factor of “Vol. 1”. The first volume was very unexpected at the time, not only unearthing Calvin Harris’ hidden talents in funk, but putting that production against artists who wouldn’t normally make music like that. I never thought that Migos and Frank Ocean together would make a slick, disco-funk summer jam, but the fact that it turned out so well is what made “Vol. 1” such an entertaining novelty. “Potion”, meanwhile, is too predictable. We know Dua Lipa would knock this song out in her sleep. Pairing her with Young Thug would have raised some eyebrows in 2017, but in 2022 when by then he’s collaborated with artists from Camila Cabello to Thomas Rhett, it’s mostly just a fun bonus rather than a pleasant surprise. And of course, there’s a bit of magic lost when we now know Calvin Harris was always capable of making funk music. As a result, the song ends up being very enjoyable, and a nice presence on your summer playlists, but not quite the stand-out, highly anticipated event I think many were expecting it to be. Hopefully, he has more tricks up his sleeve that can catch us off-guard.
[7]

Kayla Beardslee: It’s been very funny to see reactions to this song like “It’s too low-key, where’s the chorus? One Kiss was way better!” as if that wasn’t exactly what people were saying about One Kiss when it first came out. Only time will tell whether Potions earns that kind of retconning as well, but for now it’s perfectly fine poolside music or whatever. Are people still going to public pools? Do they play music there, or would a pool-core Spotify playlist just be garbled lifeguard announcements? Anyway, Potions is the type of cotton candy track that works best as an idea, floating out there in the abstract realm of hashtag-vibes. Don’t think about it too hard or it’ll dissolve in the water. Which tastes like chlorine.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: Just because something seems effortless, doesn’t mean that it might not have been better if some effort had been put in. This is B-game stuff from everyone. But it’s no surprise Dua Lipa sounds good over disco basslines , even if unless I’m paying attention I have no idea what she’s singing, and I suspect these are placeholder lyrics not ever finished or revised. Okay, maybe not everyone here — Young Thug puts the effort in and sounds just fine in Lipa’s wheelhouse, dare I say better.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 was an unexpectedly delightful, smooth pop-house album, so I’m definitely curious what he could have in store for the upcoming Vol. 2. But while the groove here is appropriately summery and languid, Dua Lipa has nothing to do and does even less with it (other than repeat the stupid “sprinkle with a little bit of sex, and it’s a [potion/moment]”), while Young Thug is on autopilot. “Potion” could’ve been great, but there’s no there there.
[4]

Oliver Maier: Dua Lipa is like a talisman that someone created to ward sensuality away from pop music. As usual her attempts at steaminess read like copywriting from a cocktail brand. Young Thug is not exactly giving it his all but he doesn’t need to really. He’s here to provide texture, and it’s sad to think we might not hear him outshine the headline artist on a pop song with about 30% of the effort again for a very long time. Perfectly adequate as a start to another instalment of Funk W- oh god dammit I just realised that it abbreviates to FWBs. Christ. Whatever. I’m sure this will be great as background music on Love Island.
[4]

Andrew Karpan: The opening riff has a kind of nostalgic immediacy that makes it feel like a sample that someone like the Alchemist would pull for a mid-career rapper, which makes it all the more impressive that someone like Calvin Harris could cook it up as an advertisement for his latest mission statement on the subject of background noise for backyard barbecues. But it’s good, by far the best record Dua Lipa has cut since her last album cycle, essentializing and providing a sort of commentary on her pop appeal by saying the word “sex” repeatedly, her Albanian accent lifting it into the air like a private jet.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: I would simply like everyone who is reading this to click this line. One you did that, redirect your eyes to Calvin Harris, doing what many white and white-passing DJs did as they swept up house/disco/techno/anything electronic black people made/yeah, even trap has had this happen to it/as soon as whatever quinn/duwap kaine/carti/izaya tiji is currently doing is popular enough it will happen to that too: co-opting an authentic, emotive voice from one of black music culture’s most popular figures who pushed the craft forward in ways that white fox were either disgusted by or too eager to do this nonsense to notice. Dua Lipa presents a scratch performance, and was apparently never contacted to re-do it.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Young Thug remains an inscrutable presence — what he does  on “Potion” no man can say but it awakens a disco soft drink whose fizz disappeared long ago.
[4]

Friday, July 1st, 2022

Sky Ferreira – Don’t Forget

Don’t forget a particular kind of ’80s bombast…


[Video][Website]
[6.57]

Ian Mathers: I would be thrilled if we decided as a culture to properly bring back this particular, skyline-swallowing strain of synthpop, actually. For now I guess I’ll just put on a mix next to “Emeralds Shatter” or something.
[8]

Katie Gill: Part of me wonders when this nostalgic 1980s synthpop aping will end and we’ll enter a new era of artists directly calling to a sound that happened before they were born. Maybe a new TikTok teenager will reinvent grunge? That would be neat. Of course, I will happily retract all my complaints if it turns out that Sky Ferreria has a deep and unabiding love for brash, bombastic 1980s pop but this sounds 1980s in the same way that Stranger Things does, referencing musical styles just for the sake of referencing musical styles. It’s the Ready Player One of 1980s music. Anyway, this sounds like perfectly serviceable Chvrches and I do not mean that as a compliment.
[6]

Alfred Soto: It almost booms and sears like the Sky Ferreira whose 2013 album caught me offguard with some of the sharpest songs about exploiting and being exploited by an industry insistent on treating young women as commodities. Mixed as loudly as the drums, she sounds in control — I miss when Florence Welch was like this.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: I know Sky Ferreira has an endlessly compelling story and is interesting and a talent but she’s also a thing people endlessly project their own preferences and belief in their superior taste onto. So I don’t expect too many people to come out and say what seems obvious: this is just value over replacement synth pop which dangles its signifiers in your face without doing much with them. Tasteful, and forgettable.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: I mean, I have to give this a [6] just for its gigantic drums alone. Add in the swoony synths on the chorus and Ferreira’s oh-so-assured vocal, and it’s up to an…
[8]

Oliver Maier: Years of development hell for Ferreira’s new music meant that this could well have arrived in a state of tedious polish. The opposite ends up being true; “Don’t Forget” sounds like a Night Time, My Time song that’s been left to rust and then forced out of retirement. The drums thud unevenly, compression swallows up what is clearly a very layered instrumental — in a way, the music seems to be making the same demand that Ferreira is. That tinge of tragicomedy feels appropriate for an artist whose songs often grapple with the seemingly irreconcilable tasks of being cool and wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s not a total knockout, but I can’t dislike it, particularly given that Ferreira can still turn in a better vocal performance than many of her big-ticket indie pop contemporaries.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: I’m only going to say this once. we did not need Sky Ferreira to return us to an age most of our friends and parents and sugar-booted Heath Ledgers were entombed in forever, never to return. The drums are nice tho.
[6]

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

Panic! at the Disco – Viva Las Vengeance

Vengeance is what we took on these poor fools.


[Video]
[4.12]

Katie Gill: It says a lot about the state of P!atD that I spent the whole song going ‘this reminds me of a much better song, what the fuck IS it.’ The band itself has gone through so many different styles and so many different shades of Hot Topic chic that if you scroll down to the comments, you will inevitably see someone say “ah yes, this reminds me entirely of Album That Is Obviously My Fave.” But I can’t see this attracting anybody who’s new to the group. We’ve got brattier emo out there, more rocking rock, and more solid alternative pop. This a song from a band that has cultivated it’s fanbase and is perfectly fine coasting for just a little bit longer.
[5]

Al Varela: As a staunch defender of Panic’s “Brendon Urie Solo Project Era” (mostly), I was pretty much set to love this song from the beginning. I’m relieved to see that instead of trying to remake the unexpected success of “High Hopes”, Urie went back to making the Vegas-core chaos that worked so well on “Death of a Bachelor”. A sticky guitar riff, a choir of backing vocalists, and a feverish rush in the percussion come together to soundtrack Urie’s descent back into debauchery and overindulgence, try as he might to escape the never-ending cycle. Urie, of course, delivers in his manic performance as the song builds and builds into a more chaotic spiral of nightmares, and though the excitement in this song is a thrill, the danger is just as pronounced swallowing Urie whole. It’s SUCH a fun song! Can’t say it’ll work for you if you don’t like anything Panic has made since “Pretty, Odd”, but I adore it.
[9]

Aaron Bergstrom: Okay, honestly: How was this not already the title of a Panic! at the Disco song? Part of me hoped “Viva Las Vengeance” would be embarrassingly bad since we’re all working through so much “High Hopes” and “ME!”-related trauma, and the chance to collectively roast a terrible new single would have been cathartic, but alas, it’s just resolutely underwhelming.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: I’m sorry, my notes just say “Hot Hot Heat if they were produced by Jeff Lynne, only terrible” and that’s all you’re getting.
[0]

Thomas Inskeep: The “groovy” ’60s pop-isms of this record make my teeth itch, and Brendon Urie’s vocals, which hit “shrill” more than once, sound like he’s auditioning for a musical version of The Assassination of Gianni Versace. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss when PATD was emo.
[3]

Oliver Maier: I will take anyone else trying to be Elvis Costello, thanks. Can someone just give this idiot a Broadway role already so that he can leave us alone.
[2]

Nortey Dowuona: The song was fine enough but there was really no need for it anymore. And the song currently plays in a loop in Brandon’s head so how better to hate on him by plugging in a much better band? Besides, this is you daily reminder that Pete Wentz is in fact black.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Too shrill for power pop, too thin for Broadway, Brandon Urie is twice fucked. “Viva Las Vengeance” flirts with the insufferable, but the piano solo and the hysterically mixed bass sand down Urie’s pyrotechnics.
[5]

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

Rina Sawayama – This Hell

Gaga pastiche? Gaga parody? It’s undeniable we’re living in hell, though.


[Video]
[7.33]

Tobi Tella: Has the aura of an extraordinarily talented musician who spent a little too much time engaging with stan twitter; the obvious comparison is “Born This Way” but less misguided and more sonically interesting. SAWAYAMA’s focus on family gave Rina a lot of rich emotions to work with and helped it stand apart from more lovey-dovey pop releases, so I hope this and “Chosen Family” have filled up her Equality Anthem quota and we can get something a little less pandering for the album.
[7]

Ian Mathers: If I hadn’t seen Sawayama describe “This Hell” as ‘country pop’ I never would have made that connection, but now I can see it. Her mind!
[8]

Katie Gill: This is country-pop for people who have no idea what country-pop actually sounds like. It’s a fucking jam, though.
[7]

Al Varela: Rina Sawayama has always been amazing at taking the best parts of 2000s pop and transforming them into something modern, yet timeless, and “This Hell” may be the pinnacle of her method to the madness. An explosive anthem with a triumphant hook where Rina faces the rampant bigotry she faces for being queer and instead of submitting to their hatred, vows to ride into hell and protect the people she loves. Rina’s performance is truly incredible, howling against the roaring synths and clanging bells. It’s battle cry of a chorus is perfect for enduring the worst of what the world has to offer, and rather than being bleak or losing all hope, it vows to keep fighting and live their best life no matter who tries to stop them. And that sense of pride over oneself, embracing who you are and not changing for anyone, is the spirit lifter I needed this pride month. 
[10]

Scott Mildenhall: As it lurches awkwardly from verse to pre-chorus and chorus to verse, no amount of crowbarred pop culture references can conceal the sense that “This Hell” is a weaker Gaga pastiche than those Ava Max churns out without such a presupposition of quality.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Of course the bridge sounds like Gaga. Facts are facts. If for the sake of a misbegotten anthem she exploited a cultural moment when the future for gays and lesbians looked brighter, “This Hell” recognizes a decade later that we live in the title landscape. It could be less clippety-cloppety, less reliant on dumb punchlines I expect to hear in Fire Island.
[6]

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

Kalush Orchestra – Stefania

Eurovision winner!


[Video]
[6.67]

Katie Gill: In the weeks or so after Eurovision, you’ll see some bad Twitter takes about how Ukraine won this year due to international politics, not on the merits of the song itself. Those takes absolutely suck. One, Eurovision has always been about international politics–there is no way in hell that Greece and Cyprus give each other twelve points each year because they legitimately like each other’s songs. Two, “Stefania” is a legitimately great song. It shares a lot of the same DNA (and also a band member) as “SHUM,” Ukraine’s entry from last year that became a hit with the televote (and also TSJ staff). You’ve got this wonderful blend of traditional Ukrainian folk music and modern stylings–though while “SHUM” went for pushing electronic Gothic vibes, “Stefania” goes for more of a party, good times vibe, complete with staging that involved breakdancing and actually good rap (which is a rarity for Eurovision). It’s a fun blend of new and old that absolutely would have captured the televote’s heart and done well even if there wasn’t any conflict. People would have fallen in love with this song no matter what and those people include me. “Stefania” slaps, I doubt I’ll see everybody in Kyiv next year because (laughs nervously in geopolitical situation) but dammit we’ll be there in spirit.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The rapping is enthusiastic not great, but from the synth stabs and rhythm bed to the Mediterranean lilt of the vocals I hear traces of classic freestyle, itself indebted to Middle Eastern melodies.
[6]

Ian Mathers: It’d be easy for a Ukrainian Eurovision winner in 2022 to feel like it won for reasons beyond the actual song (and honestly, it’d be hard to begrudge voters and judges alike that even as over here we hear less and less about the ongoing invasion/war crimes etc. – how’s that going anyway?). Maybe it helps that “Stefania” was apparently written before and not about that invasion, but the combination of the tough-talking rap about how great his mom is with a genuinely lovely chorus and some nice sopolka/telenka work (yes I had to look this up and they are both kinds of flute as far as I can tell) and a back that gives even the more ballad-y bits a pulse mean it sounds like a worthy winner on its own sonic merits anyway.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: 44th best rap tribute to mom ever. Shout out to moms.
[9]

Scott Mildenhall: In a Eurovision with a not overwhelming level of energetic entries, Kalush Orchestra’s mix of the melancholic and the celebratory was a standout. It didn’t need the increased resonance to achieve that — from the start it was a soulful piece with endless hooks and a distinct identity. It’s tempting to say that Ukraine are just good at the contest — and that would be true — but most impressive is the record of the Kalush-Go_A fulcrum Ihor Didenchuk. Perhaps he could enter every year?
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Yes, I support Ukraine. Yes, I understand that this won Eurovision solely out of extramusical concerns. But on a purely musical level, this mashup of trad folk and contemporary hip hop (with fairly down-the-middle pop production) is nigh on unlistenable.
[2]

Monday, June 20th, 2022

Future ft. Drake and Tems – Wait for U

Yeah, you wait 4 us, bros.


[Video]
[4.71]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: After Encanto soundtrack singles and Glass Animals nonsense topped the Billboard Hot 100 for most of March and April, it’s great to see the music world finally find the script again. Reflectiveness is always a a great look for Future, and Drake manages to sounds sympathetic for the first time in ages. The real star here, of course, is Tems, who earns that #1 with a vocal so tender that the rest of the song just floats away. 
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: Tems is one of the most important singers of the last 20 years, and this would be a 10 if the song I was writing about was “Damages.” Instead a bland Future takes up time while Drake is completely pointless and just reminds you that he’s uncompelling unless he’s hurting and undermining somebody who cares for him. So this is a 6 cuz Drake and Future are boring and uninteresting but not bad and laughable. 
[4]

Ian Mathers: Tems deserves better rappers on this track.
[4]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: In a pop landscape dominated by boring, incompetent mega-hits, Future’s extreme competence in boring hitmaking stands out as something to be admired. “Wait for U” is extremely tasteful, Tems’ sampled hook an artfully staged marble statue that Future and Drake do restrained aristocrat romantic soliloquies around. It’s a Sting song for the modern era, for better and for worse.
[7]

Harlan Talib Ockey: I can only assume Future and Drake cranked this out in ten minutes when they realized they still hadn’t done anything with this beat yet and they both had flights to catch, because the level of pure, mindless disinterest is galling. I’ll agree with Future that the beat is almost supernaturally striking, but that makes it all the more disappointing that neither he nor Drake are connecting with it. Their flows never sound in step with the percussion — which Drake’s boring, repetitive delivery renders even more obvious — and the prominence given to Tems’ vocals leaves them constantly trying to dodge her interjections. The only even mildly memorable line is an unfunny reference to “In My Feelings”. I’d rather just listen to Tems’ original.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: GQ recently, hilariously named Future “the best rapper alive.” Influential? Absolutely — he may have done more to ruin hip hop in the past decade, apart from his buddy Drake, than anyone. But he’s barely a rapper, instead featuring that mush-mouthed sing-talk technique he loves, and always but always Auto-tuned into oblivion. That’s on full display here; Drake is rapping, albeit whining about women as. he. always. is. Sure, this is vaguely melodic, but to what end?
[2]

Alfred Soto: The inertia on display must have been willed. While Future and Drake match mumble for mumble, Tems offers an approximation of soul in what sounds like a bus station after midnight. Not unpleasant, not not unpleasant.
[5]

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

Kendrick Lamar – N95

Thankfully we were allowed to keep the blurbs on…


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Nortey Dowuona: “Oh, you worried about our opinion? That ain’t protocol.”
[7]

Al Varela: I find it funny that the one mainstream hit from Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is the one that actively calls out the listener on their shallow bullshit. I feel like if anyone else made this song, it’d be way more derided or not taken seriously. Kendrick is essentially lashing out against the constant hypocrisy that has lingered throughout the pandemic and the political movements that came up within it. Not just the government willing to risk millions of lives for the sake of big corporations, but fake activists who insist on being for the cause when all they do is post and perpetuate things like “cancel culture” rather than make any real push for change. It’s borderline an anti-social media “get off your phone” type song that less celebrated artists would be scorned for. I guess this topic reads better in the context of the album, where Kendrick begins lashing out against people who fall into those facades and asking them to disconnect from it all like he did, only to realize he has his own facade to unpack later on. But I think even without that I find a kernel of truth to it. So much tension in social media and human interaction as a whole has been tied to the expectations we have of ourselves and others. And if we’re not holding them up to that “standard”, we feel the need to expose it so we can feel better about our own problems. I appreciate someone as beloved by people in that camp as Kendrick calling out that bullshit, especially when the song itself sounds fantastic. The voice changes he goes through in the third verse always make me smile.
[9]

Ian Mathers: Sure there are different flows and voices and some stuff going on with the production, but tonally this is just one long sneer. The exhausting kind, that might leave you going “we get it you’re the GOAT, we get it“. He’s not out of pocket, the whole damn system is out of pocket. It almost feels like the kind of thing that might be significantly and productively recontextualized if heard in the context of a larger work, but hey: it’s not called The Album Track Jukebox.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Perhaps the fact that I’m hearing this as a single, and not as part of a Kendrick Lamar Event Album, is why it sounds so… non-monumental?
[5]

Alfred Soto: He’s “got some true stories to tell” and maybe I believe him, or at least, I believe that he believes. The punctuative ewws complement the collection of voices with which he experiments, most of which have ordinary things to say about “cancel culture” and bitches who wear masks but remain “ugly as fuck.” Mr. Morale offers tastier goodies.
[6]

Oliver Maier: Some truly awful lyrics from Kendrick here, firmly in his post-Damn mode of vaguely sermonising about a lot of things and hoping that some kind of a point will seep in through the cracks. Thankfully the beat sounds like it was made for Epic Rap Battles of History so nothing of value is wasted. Entertaining the mediocre indeed.
[2]

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

Ibibio Sound Machine – Protection from Evil

Good has prevailed…


[Video]
[7.71]

Thomas Inskeep: Hearing ISM’s Eno Williams flip between the Nigerian Ibibio language and English, while her bandmates and producers Hot Chip go ham on funky electronics, is the epitome of a thrill. This isn’t a mere sugar or caffeine rush, this is pure cocaine converted into a thumping, throbbing-like-Moroder jam, and it might well be 2022’s best single so far.
[10]

Tim de Reuse: Hot Chip-produced, huh? Al Doyle on synths? Ibibio Sound Machine plus a healthy dose of analogue synth fetishism? There’s no reason these two things cannot live in harmony, in principle. But there’s a strange tension between the swing of the descending trumpet lines in the latter half and the sequencer-controlled modular synth that menaces the bassline, with one full of energy and one tightly controlled for a long dance-punk buildup. It sounds more like a remix than a collaboration: two groups of people, each doing their own thing, not quite clicking with each other. At least they are all good at their respective things.
[7]

Ian Mathers: If I hadn’t already known that Hot Chip produced the whole LP, on the basis of the sound of “Protection From Evil” I might have guessed Holy Fuck instead. That is not even remotely a complaint (in either direction), and the result is a great example of a great band producing another already great band.
[8]

Alfred Soto: I’m torn thinking about how I’d dance the fuck out of “Protection from Evil” and recoiling from the Remain in Light/My Life in the Bush of Ghosts distortions.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Most of the pedestrian drums lying at the bottom of the many faux-African bands started by Europeans undermine their every effort, but up till “Protection,” this wasn’t a problem for Ibibio Sound Machine. Unfortunately, the dulling kicks and flat snares undermine the seething synth baseline and the frizzing synths. Eno Williams’ awkward, stumbling voice tries find a rhythm until she gives up and starts the refrain, in which the whole composition finally comes alive. When the drums are removed from the final bars, Eno repeats the refrain, and the song bursts aflame and bright, blinding you constantly.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Others will write about how much of an electricity-to-nerves rush this is. I’m just here stunned by the truth in title: how colossal an accomplishment it is these days for a song to make me feel, truly and viscerally, protected from evil.
[9]

Scott Mildenhall: Arrestingly jagged, summoning electricity from every sinew, “Protection from Evil” is an ideal marriage of two unique bands letting loose. There’s no corner they don’t reach; it’s a room fit to burst with the doors still safely closed.
[8]

Monday, June 13th, 2022

Måneskin – Supermodel

I mean, his hair does shine like the sea…


[Video]
[3.71]

Jessica Doyle: I will admit that, first, I am the wrong person to ask about ’90s nostalgia, and second, I did smile at “When you’re not looking, she’s stealing your Basquiat.” That said: y’all, unless you’re reading Jimmy Maher’s work, it really was not that interesting a decade. And the supermodel craze was one of the less interesting aspects of it. Moreover, technology has not changed enough to make the era more interesting by obscuring it. You can get the video for “Freedom ’90” on YouTube, in 4K no less. And finally, “Save Tonight” is one of the least interesting songs I have ever heard, and its overlap with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” does not an interesting song make.
[3]

Ian Mathers: It’s possible a band like Måneskin could work outside the narrow bandwidth of their first few notable tracks, but it’s not likely — as opposed to their attempt at a character sketch being underwhelming, which is very likely. Take out one “OnlyFans,” and this could have been made any time going back to and through the ’90s. It’d be just as milquetoast then, too. Minus an extra point for the way Damiano David sings the verses.
[3]

Tim de Reuse: At its best, “Supermodel” is interesting and strange in the details — I kind of adore the way the narrative is awkwardly crammed into the verse’s three-note melody. If the whole thing was as effortlessly stupid as the rhyme between “good christ-tian” and “new best friend,” it’d gain a lazy, half-assed type of cool. The chorus, however, tries a little too hard for a radio-friendly hook and syncopates itself into the netherworld from which Adam Levine gets all his worst earworms.
[5]

Harlan Talib Ockey: I can enjoy this song on both an aesthetic and a conceptual level, but I don’t think it’s truly functional on either. “Supermodel” is more polished than Måneskin’s last couple of singles, thanks presumably to Max Martin. Damiano David sounds at ease singing in English, and the only line that scans as not-quite-fluent is “her boyfriend is the rock ‘n’ roll”. The conventional pop structure is an acceptable experiment after “I Wanna Be Your Slave” (100% hook) and “Mammamia” (75% hook). The “every night’s a heartbreak” pre-chorus, however, is jarring and creatively bankrupt. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’d “Smells Like Teen Spirit” riff is… okay. I appreciate the idea of ripping off two ’90s icons for a song about a ’90s throwback, and “Supermodel” does a solid job of illustrating a character through lyrical references to the era, rather than using them as window dressing. There’s something deeply slimy and condescending about most of the Male Rock Singer Narrates Young Woman’s Disaster Life canon, though, and this is a particularly bad example. The narrator is enough of a presence to express his contempt but not enough to be parsed as an actual character, so it reads like the subject is being insulted for no reason for three minutes. Anyway, I realized while writing this that “Dani California” is a great song after all.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: Any actual ’90s supermodel would recognize the not-even-slightly-subtle “Smells Like Teen Spirit” rip here. She would not recognize this reimagining of herself as a hipster grifter, nor the 2020s nu-indie-sleaze filter layered over a 2010s Maroon 5 filter layered over the song. Also: I don’t exactly expect a bunch of Italian dudes to pay attention to United States news, even if their choice of producers like Max Martin suggests they’re paying attention to the United States market. But the second verse — “Way back in high school, when she was a good Christian I used to know her, but she’s got a new best friend, a drag queen named The Virgin Mary takes confessions” — paired with the half-scolding, half-gawking tone of the song aligns a bit too well, if accidentally, with this month’s right-wing bullshit.
[5]

Alfred Soto: I suppose a band can make a tasty hash out of Nirvana and ’90s nostalgia, but unless they’re writing about a young man dating a woman who was a supermodel in the 1990s — now there’s an untouched subject — why bother?
[4]

Micha Cavaseno: People who know me IRL know that I’ve been confiding that since the 2010s were only starting to wind down, I have been insisting people who want to make money in music should make “the most cromulent yet conservative rock” in order to service an audience that had been so starved for that familiarity so long we’re now watching bands like My Chemical Romance be treated to their generation’s equivalence of Led Zeppelin. Plenty of bands I saw start to do numbers were scoffed at as making “not songs, but jeans commercials.” Måneskin aren’t too different from that, and acts like them or Mother Mother, The Interrupters or The Struts are just here and happy to provide solid rock that has been sorely missed. Of COURSE it’s blowing up in spite of its seeming effervescence. Now, can I tell you any aspect of this Måneskin song that’s particularly interesting? No! But its role, its value and its ability to get the job done… that’s where the action’s at.
[2]